When I was a teenager, some research study must have been released about “quality time.” There grew to be a general agreement that it was not as important HOW much time you spent with a loved one as whether or not that time was QUALITY time. Suddenly we were all very worried about having important bonding time with people we cared about. What I find fascinating is that we’ve never, at least as a culture, applied the same standard to time with ourselves. There seems to be no general agreement that the time we spend with ourselves should 1) actually happen and 2) be quality time; in fact, you rarely hear people talk about “the time you spend with yourself.” It’s really curious if you start to think about it. All of our conversations about relationship and how to spend time appropriately to nurture those relationships have to do with everyone else. Don’t we need to spend time, and not just any old time but QUALITY time with ourselves? Don’t we need to know who WE are and take care of that person?
As someone who works from a home office most of the time, I can tell you that I spend plenty of time with myself. Sometimes I get downright sick of spending time with myself and look forward to that school bus screeching up the hill. In truth, though, I only get sick of the freaked out, stressed out, Type A parts of myself. The rest – my wiser self, the guardian of my hopes and dreams, my own personal compassionate friend, I could use more time with. I’ve noticed that when I DON’T get that time, my number one reaction is to feel lonely. I interpret it as lonely for other people, and sometimes I make plans around that, but it doesn’t work. I still feel lonely, that kind of lonely you can feel in a crowded room, or sitting on a couch near someone you love. I am lonely for myself. I am longing for connection to that wise one inside of me. So how do I do that?
For me, there are a few tried and true answers to that question: 1) meditate, 2) spend time doing things that only I can do (at least the way I do them), and 3) be honest about how I feel about things. Well, good. That’s an easy list. Ha.
I’m taking these out of order intentionally, so bear with me. I have gotten much better about spending time doing things only I can do. I play music with other musicians and try to be sure I’m doing that the way I want to do it, not the way I think the audience wants to hear it or the way someone else thinks I should. I do work that I feel passionately about and in which I can be myself. I’ve also gotten a lot better about being honest about how I feel about things. I used to keep a whole lot inside, and could convince myself I felt differently than I did if I worked at it long enough. I was too worried about the consequences of being myself. I’m both less worried and more sure that myself is pretty great.
As for the meditation, I am a delinquent and inconsistent meditator. Why? I find it awfully difficult to sit still and be still for any length of time… which is a pretty good indicator that meditation might be a good thing for me. And whether I am good at it or not is not really the point. The point is that my meditation practice is not just some zen moment where I practice an ancient form of prayer. My meditation is the time I am WITH myself, not the freaked out, stressed out Type A version of myself, but the rest of myself – the parts that often get overshadowed by the freaked out, stressed out, Type A parts. The whole point of it is to let that freaked out woman do her thing without giving it any fuel, resistance, any attention really. Just notice her and move on. I have some of my best ideas after I meditate, and more importantly to this conversation, when I meditate regularly, I feel more steady, more connected to everyone around me, and less lonely.
When I feel less lonely, my interactions with other people become a time to enjoy being with them rather than a time for them to fill a need for me or heal a wound. When I am connected to myself, I am with others out of joy and love, not out of need. I am able to enter the relationship from a greater sense of wholeness. I am more secure. I am just me, a less lonely, more centered, more patient and more tolerant me.
Do you spend time with yourself? How does it work for you? What makes you feel lonely? What makes you feel connected? Is it time for some quality time?
If what you’re craving is deep connection with others, take a look at Soup and Soul Saturday! I’ll supply the nourishing food, the amazing people, and the meaningful conversation. You just bring you. May 13, $29 until April 14.